Friday, October 16, 2009

Dressage in jeans

There actually is a blog by the same name that I saunter by occasionally for a good read - check it out: Dressage In Jeans. I felt the title was appropriate for this blog post though because a) it is a title that often represents me (I can be quite unconventional at times) and b) well, I've been working on dressage - in jeans. Today in particular.

I forgot that I was to give Missy the day off today (now I'm stuck with deciding whether to give her a day off this weekend or to just work her through in case I can't ride her as regularly next week...I think I'll ride her through the weekend) and so ended up riding her anyways, albeit just for a short time today. She lacked a lot of impulsion today and used the other riders in the arena as an excuse in particular. Anyway, I didn't have much time anyways and so restricted our work to the basics. Turns on the hind and fore. Back-up. Transitions. Impulsion. Bending into the outside rein on a corner. Leg yield. Side-pass. She did well and actually did put some effort in - we picked up some real impulsion during our point to point! We called it a day at that and I dismounted. Tomorrow we'll have more time, so I think we'll just do some field riding. Heck, maybe we'll ride in the fields both tomorrow and Sunday.

I just had time to grab Link and Cody, saddle Link up, and walk over to the arena, when my instructor showed up, early. I didn't have time to warm up Link and get him in sync with me much, so that ended up happening during the lesson time I'd like to have him synched-up with me beforehand, to make even better use of our lesson. I had been a bit worried that I wouldn't be on the same page as this instructor. I knew her a bit, but couldn't recall how she taught and if it was along similar lines of thinking to mine - I've found that instructors who possess "natural horsemanship" or "classical dressage" type of thinking are (seemingly anyway) few and far between. To my glee however, I discovered throughout our chatting during the lesson that we have pretty close to the exact same line of thinking - putting the horse first, using seat first, hands second, not forcing the horse, etc. She seemed quite impressed by Link - he was definitely further along than she had anticipated, as a track horse, plus he is very smart and very light. I think even I was more advanced than she (and I!) had anticipated, considering I have not had a lesson now for a few years. The only thing she told me to focus on thus far was to slide my leg back slightly and to try not to hunch my shoulders when I concentrate. She also pointed out how I haven't interfered with Link and that he is very relaxed, in sync with me, and loose. It was great to hear, because I feel like my biggest job as a rider is to guide the horse and put them through exercises that encourage what I want (ie. collection, etc), and then to just stay out of their way!! I was glad to hear that I am doing a good job on him (and thus the other horses I apply my techniques to as well); it was a much-needed confidence boost to someone who is so critical of her own riding. He's got a great walk, he started picking up a good rhythm and tracking up nicely during the latter part of our trot work, and even his canter was decent (lots of power, was her primary observation) on a 20m circle (we tried along the rail to see how he was, but he hollowed and picked up speed, I went up too forward, and we generally fell apart, lol). She thinks he will fill out a lot more, has really good bone, and that we can develop his topline a lot more as well. She also pointed out how he has a lot of elevation (he has incredible elevation sometimes - at times he'll just put all his energy and impulsion up!!) and power and how he is never on his forehand, which was not something I had really thought about overly (not on a conscious level anyways, because it wasn't a problem). She - I'm going to call her K for future reference - had me do a number of exercises: transitions, leg yields, circles, figure-eights, etc. Today was mostly a recon mission, but I still learned quite a bit already and feel like I have a considerable more to learn, which is exciting!! My homework until next lesson (tentatively scheduled for next Friday - I may have to reschedule due to work) I think is to do some of the exercises we did today to get Link more in sync with me and to get him tracking up and such. I'll also apply some of what I learned today (building/cementing impulsion and ensuring relaxation FIRST - through exercises) to our regular works as well. Oh, and I'll incorporate some leg exercises (that K taught me today) to strengthen my own legs, as a rider (stretch-type exercises). Oh - and on a last note, K mentioned that a facility nearby (actually, it is only about 10 minutes down the road, I used to board there) is holding a schooling show in December that she thinks would be appropriate for us, to get Link and I accustomed to the show atmosphere. Yay! I really couldn't be happier. I walked away today with some good confidence and a lot of exciting things to think about. The neatest part of the evening was that we took it slow with lots of breaks for Link to relax, lots of loose-rein work (esp at the beginning, but some in the middle and such to encourage him to stretch out), and he really started working in partnership with me. At the finish, I removed his bridle and threw on his halter, tossing the lead over his back as I walked away to pick up the poop with which he had fertilized the arena. In my peripherals, it looked as if Link was pacing the fenceline, which disappointed me because it indicates to me that he is not in a healthy frame of mind (because it is a repetitive, mindless behaviour/pattern he does when stressed). Then, movement flickered at the corner of my vision. I looked up to see Link leaving the fenceline to walk directly up to me!! This was astounding to me, because he walked the entire length of the arena to find me and he left the fenceline - something he would previously never do!! It was an indicator of our growing partnership when he sought me out to put his head in my arms and generally hassle me into rubbing him (well, he didn't have to hassle too hard, I was pretty willing, hehehe). He really acted like a partner today, the result I think of all our work on the ranch. Working in the mountains and out in the "big bad wilderness" (as Link treats it) I think really drew him closer to me - it always seems to quiet him and benefit our partnership. So we'll keep up the outings throughout his career - don't think that as a big bad jumper one day (hopefully) he's not going to still be climbing mountains and trails! Lol.

I was glad I did take Cody into the arena as well - I had just wanted to be around him today and for him to be exposed to the hustle and bustle of a busy barn and arena. He was pretty nervous (as evidenced by the soupy manure he so kindly left me, lol) in the arena, so I was especially glad to have brought him in - he needs it. He didn't disturb my lesson and he benefited from the experience. The more we do these things, the more comfortable he will become! I am hoping to do some liberty work with both him and Link tomorrow, and I found a new toy to play with with Cody - a wooden "bridge" outside the outdoor arena...the type you would find in a trail class. All my horses go over it without question (well, Link skirted it today, but if I hadn't had my hands full he would have gone over it better, but we'll do it another time), but Cody wanted nothing to do with it. I hear a (Parelli) Touch It pattern calling! Hahaha.

Can't wait for tomorrow! Nevermind next lesson!!!

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